Entrapment claim denied

Published 10:04 am Monday, October 17, 2016


GREENVILLE – The United States Attorney’s Office argues in a motion filed Wednesday in Greenville that Operation Rockfish defendant Antonio Tillmon was not entrapped by the government to join a purported drug trafficking organization in the police corruption case.

Tillmon is the only one of the so-called Rockfish 15 who will stand trial in the case as the remaining defendants choosing to take plea deals.

Antonio Tillmon

Antonio Tillmon

“The defendant asserts that he intends to argue that he was entrapped by the government into participating in the drug trafficking organization for which he is charged,” United States Attorney John Brice wrote in the motion. “It is undisputed, however, that the defendant was not recruited to join the drug trafficking organization by the government. Instead, the defendant was recruited by a co-defendant.”

The Fourth Circuit Court holds derivative entrapment is not a defense, Brice wrote, and Tillmon is not entitled to argue entrapment as a defense at trial as a matter of law.

“Solicitation of the crime alone is not sufficient to grant the instruction, as that is not the kind of conduct that would persuade an otherwise innocent person to commit a crime,” he wrote in his motion.

Brice wrote there was no improper government action because Tillmon was recruited by a private citizen and a claim of derivative entrapment is impermissible.

“And because there was no improper government action. He also cannot show a lack of predisposition because he readily and willingly joined the drug conspiracy once he was informed of it,” Brice wrote.

Tillmon willingly participated in three separate operations spanning the course of seven months, the motion said.

“A month later, he then returned for yet a fourth operation, at which point he was arrested. The defendant was motivated by the profit that he earned providing protection for the drug shipments,” stated the motion.

Brice wrote undercover agents never threatened or coerced the defendants to participate or to continue participating. “In fact, during the dinner meeting before the defendant’s first drug run, (agents) told the new recruits that they did not have to participate and it was ‘no problem’ if the defendant did not want to participate. The (agents) said that they could ‘part ways and shake hands’.”

The defendant chose instead to show up the next day to begin his participation in the drug trafficking. The defendant’s eagerness to commit the crimes over and over again is evidence that he possessed a predisposition for the criminal activity and therefore was not entrapped.”

The motion states even a neuropsychological report prepared by Tillmon’s legal team supports the conclusion he was predisposed because it concludes he is more likely “to engage the people and things that are familiar from previous situations instead of those that are novel in the present situation” and that his “behavior tends away from unexpected or impulsive actions and toward repetition of prior ways of behaving.”

In addition to the motion filed on Wednesday, Brice also released additional information about how Operation Rockfish evolved.

Brice writes in the motion the FBI and North Carolina Eastern District Attorney’s Office conducted the reverse undercover operation “to flush out corrupt law enforcement officers in the Eastern District of North Carolina.”

During the course of the investigation, FBI undercover employees posed as members of a drug trafficking organization (DTO) which transported narcotics and narcotics proceeds between Miami and New York.

“The UCEs told the defendants that the DTO had recruited law enforcement officers in every state from Florida to New York to protect the DTO’s transport operations within the state’s borders and the DTO was expanding its North Carolina drug trafficking and money laundering operation.”

The defendants assisted the organization in the transport of the purported cocaine and heroin, sometimes while armed, in exchange for cash payments.

“The undercover investigation was premised upon the DTO’s desire to recruit law enforcement in North Carolina to protect the DTO’s drug transport operations in North Carolina,” Brice wrote.

Lann Tjuan Clanton, a former Weldon Police officer and correctional officer, was the first defendant recruited and the only one recruited directly by the FBI. He was encouraged by the undercover agents to recruit other law enforcement officers who would be willing to protect the transport of drugs and drug proceeds in exchange for payment.

Clanton subsequently recruited defendant Ikeisha Jacobs, who formerly worked with the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office, to join the organization. Clanton and Jacobs were later assigned to lead their own teams, Brice wrote.

Jacobs recruited Tilmon, according to documents filed in the federal court record in July through August of 2014. “At the time of his recruitment, the defendant was employed as a police officer with the Windsor Police Department,” Brice wrote.

After Jacobs recruited Tillmon to join the operation, he met with the undercover employees and other co-defendants to learn the logistical details of the operation.

“Jacobs remained in control of coordinating Tillmon’s appearance at each of the operations. At the time that she recruited Tillmon, and during the entirety of the operations, Jacobs did not know that she was working with the FBI.”

Tillmon, the motion states, participated in three operations that moved 30 kilograms of purported heroin from North Carolina to Maryland.

He began work for the DTO in August, 2014 and continued to work for the organization until his arrest on April 30 of last year when he showed up to participate in a fourth operation.

“The defendant carried a firearm to defend the drug transports during the second and third drug runs in which he participated. During the third drug run, he even provided an extra gun to one of his co-defendants when he learned that she was not carrying a gun. On the day of his arrest, he arrived to transport the purported drugs with five firearms and numerous rounds of ammunition,” according to Brice’s motion.

(Lance Martin is the Editor and Publisher of www.rrspin.com. Permission was received to publish this story.)